Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Book Whisperer

Miller, D. The Book Whisperer. (2009). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

Some quotable quotes and great ideas from the book: 

"The only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests" (Miller, 2009, p. 3)

"I believe that this corporate machinery of scripted programs, comprehension worksheets (reproducibles, handouts, printables, whatever you want to call them), computer-based incentive packages, and test-practice curricula facilitate a solid bottom line for the companies that sell them" (Miller, 2009, p.3)

Amen! This is exactly how I feel. We have reduced reading to worksheets, comprehension questions, and online fake coins. Reading should be about choice. Choose a subject that interests you. Choose the author whose style you love. I believe that it's also important that teachers model a love of reading and a love of reading a variety of genres. 

Children should be introduced to mythology, legends, fables, mysteries, realistic fiction and inspired to explore other genres. But the starting point should always be "We read because we love to read" and not... "I read to get a better fluency score. I read to fill out a worksheet to turn in so I get a checkmark."

Children become better at what they love. They will love reading if they love WHAT they are reading. If they are entertained and excited by the story. If they feel they have choice over what book they pick up and what book they put down. Personally, I don't care for the Magic Treehouse series. I never wanted to read those books in school but they were usually mandated. What if I had read books by one of my favorite authors, Ann Rinaldi or Sharon Creech, instead? 

"These programs ... are doomed to fail because they overlook what is most important. When you take a forklift and shovel off these programs, underneath it all is a child reading a book" (p. 3)

How could we lose sight of that? We teach children, not "reading programs." 

OOOOOH research!! She quotes Krashen!! MY favorite. Krashen is a leading expert in language acquisition theory. He writes about input, interaction, and output. I have lots of posts on this blog about second language acquisition. Here is what he says about reading:

"Stephen Krashen, respected researcher, activist, and author of The Power of Reading, identifies fifty-one students that prove that students in free-reading programs perform better or equal to students in any other type of reading program. Krashen found that students' motivation and interest in reading is higher when they get the opportunity to read in school... building lifelong readers has to start here" (p. 3-4). 

Not surprising. I wouldn't read a novel purely because someone else said I should. I would read the back cover, read a few pages, and then decide if I liked it. If I did, that would increase my motivation to read. I would want to come home every night and curl up on the couch with a great story waiting for me. 

"Educators coined the terms real reading, authentic reading, and independent reading to differentiate what readers do in school from what readers do in life is part of the problem" (p. 4).

Terminology gets in its own way sometimes. 

Miller says that her reading instruction begins with her love of reading and outlines how reading has been important in her own life (p. 9-10). What a crucial starting point! 

Speaking of not being able to put a book down.. I want to read this one cover to cover! More posts to come. 

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